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all this per
cheek to think upon ; mercies that enwrap all heaven in amazement, they will tell out as unconcernedly as the adventures of the morning. The voice falters not, the colour changes not, the eye moistens not. And to what purpose sonality? To get good, or do good ? By no means: but that whatever subject they look upon, they always see themselves in the foreground of the picture, with every minute particular swelled into importance, while all besides is merged in indistinctness.
We may be assured there is nothing so ill-bred, so annoying, so little entertaining, so absolutely impertinent, as this habit of talking always with reference to ourselves. For everybody has a Self of their own, to which they attach as much importance as we to ours, and see all other matters small in the comparison. The lady of rank has her castles and her ancestors—they are the foreground of her picture: there they stood when she came into being, and there they are still, in all the magnitude of near perspective. And if her estimate of their real size be not corrected by experience and good sense, she expects that others will see them as large as she does. But that will not be so. The lady of wealth has gotten her houses and lands in the foreground: these are the larger features of her landscape; titles and the castles are seen at a smaller angle. Neither lady will admire the proportions of her neighbour's drawing, should they chance to discover themselves in each other's conversation: She again, whether rich or poor, whose world is her own domesticity, sees nothing so prominent as the affairs of her nursery or her household ; and perceives not that in the eyes
of others her children are a set of diminutives, undistinguishable in the mass of humanity; in which
that they ever existed, or that they cease to exist, is matter of equal indifference.
And she who holds her mental powers in predominance, to whom the nearest objects are knowledge, and reason, and science, and learning ; she takes disgust at the egotism of the former three, and does not perceive that the magnitude she gives to her own pursuits, seems as ill-proportioned to them, as theirs to her. And if there be one who is disabused alike of all, of wealth, and rank, and learning; and, having taken just measure both of what she has and of what she has not, has placed all in the obscurity of the distance: and in nearness to her heart and pre-eminence in her contemplation, has placed the
great things of eternity-right though she is, and just though her drawing be, even she should be aware that others see it not so. The shades that overcast her landscape, never hung on theirs; the sunbeam that lights it, never shown on them. In time and season she must speak to them for good : but when good is not the object, she, too, must be aware and make some allowance, in speaking of joys and sorrows that they never knew, and exhibiting contempt for things that she despises, but they cannot.
It is thus that each one attributes to the objects round him, not their true and actual proportion, but a magnitude proportioned to their nearness to himself. We say not that he draws ill who does so : for to each one, things are important more or less, in proportion to his own interest in them. But hence is the mischief—we forget that every one has a Self of their own, and that the constant setting forth of ours, is to others preposterous, obtrusive, and ridiculous. The painter who draws a folio in the front of his picture and a castle in the distance, properly
draws the book the larger of the two: but he must be a fool if he therefore thinks the folio is the larger, and expects everybody else to think so too. Yet nothing wiser are we, when we suffer ourselves to be perpetually pointing to ourselves, our affairs, and our possessions, as if they were as interesting to others, as they are important to us.
Beside the several pieces of morality to be drawn out of this vision, I learned from it, never to repine at my own misfortunes, or to envy the happiness of another ; since it is impossible for any man to form a right judgment of his neighbour's sufferings.
I do not know whether
readers ever felt a de. sire of the sort, but I have often thought it must be pleasant to listen in the days of Æsop, when thrush could offer counsel in a voice as sweet as that with which she bids farewell to the departing sun, and every butterfly could whisper a warning to the frivolous and vain, before the cold wind numbed her golden bosom. However, remotely wandering from the walks of men, however much condemned to solitude and silence, he could hear something that was worth the listening; and worth the telling too, as the world has seemed to think; since, for ages after, it is content to read what the Fabler has ceased to tell, and the birds and the beasts have so unkindly ceased to utter.
Perhaps my readers do not believe that it ever has been so. That is a scepticism very unfavourable to the reception of my story; but if it be so, I can only say, that all I repeat, I did surely hear, and if they listen they may hear it too: and perhaps they will think with me, that since it cannot be the discourse of creatures rational, I do wisely attribute
it to those we term irrational. Perhaps, could these irrationals be heard in their own behalf, they would say our fables do them much injustice. They have shared our miseries, but not our sins. The wolf devours the lamb because he is hungry, and the lamb is the food that nature has appointed him; when he no more is hungry, he will no more slay the lamb. He obeys the hard necessity brought on him by man's delinquency, and thinks and knows no wrong. But the jealousy and the pride, and the hard unkindness, and the restless discontent, and aimless mischief, is all reserved for bosoms rational. We have put into the mouths of the viper and the lion, words of wrong that amid all created things, perhaps, were never heard but from our own. However, this may be, I must proceed with my tale; and if my readers, after a careful perusal, should be of opinion that I was deceived, and that the creatures I saw and heard were neither birds nor beasts, I willingly submit to their decision.
One day—if it was not in the days of Æsop, it must have been in some region not very commonly known—I was wandering by myself in the fairest of scenes, on the finest of days, and in the best of humours. How could I be otherwise ? It was a day and a scene in which the spirit that delights in nature's charms, feels almost a painful struggle to enlarge its powers that it may enjoy them more. It was not hot, for the fresh breeze blew from the sea, bearing with it the perfume of the moss and herbage over"which it passed. It was not cold, for a bright autumn sun wanted yet some hours of setting ; and if now and then a silvery fleecy cloud passed
over it as a veil, it was but to change the tints and prospect nothing could improve. Either my mind was that day free from care, or in the overwhelming